Photo by soomness, via Flickr

Given Baltimore’s high levels of violence, it’s no surprise a majority of residents want the city to have safer streets. But how they hope to get there is another matter.

According to a new survey published today by Open Society Institute-Baltimore, most city residents would like to see it happen through an expansion of Safe Streets, the violence-prevention program that allows community leaders to mediate conflicts before they escalate. Nearly one-third of respondents said that was their top choice.

Second, at 28 percent, was bolstering services for mental health and substance use. And third, at 16 percent, was improving witness and victim services. Only 11 percent of respondents wanted to see an increase in the number of police officers.

The Fraternal Order of Police has recently argued the department desperately needs to hire hundreds of officers as it continues to suffer from attrition.

Residents also had thoughts about how the police department could better use its budget. Three options got a share of more than 20 percent: “improving police-community relations,
training officers to connect people to supportive services, and training officers to treat residents equally without bias.”

If given $1 billion to spend from the city’s annual $3 billion budget, one in three residents would invest in youth programs. An equal number of respondents, between 15 percent and 16 percent, said they would spend the money “community-based safety programs,” policing, affordable housing or investing in small business.

With the exception of Latinx respondents, “safer streets” was the biggest concern among Baltimoreans of all races. Other popular responses were less trash on the streets (16 percent), fewer vacant homes (15 percent) and making it easier to own a home (11 percent).

While 70 percent of Baltimore residents have a positive outlook about the neighborhood they live in, white respondents were almost three times more likely than African American or Latinx respondents to think this way.

Baltimoreans don’t think too much will change during the term of the next mayor. More than half said things will stay the same over the next four years, while one-third said things will get better.

OSI-Baltimore Director Danielle Torain wrote that the survey, titled Blueprint for Baltimore, was carried out with the upcoming election in mind, but also to look beyond it.

“Looking to 2020, we wanted to connect more systematically with all Baltimore communities, including its most marginalized, and generate reliable data that could be used to advocate for the policy priorities chosen by Baltimore residents during the 2020 elections and beyond,” she wrote.

Enlisting members of organizations such as Baltimore Votes, Black Girls Vote, Black Leaders Organizing for Change, CASA and the No Boundaries Coalition, surveyors received responses 4,863, of whom 40 percent were black, 28 percent were white, 25 percent Latinx 2 percent Asian, 4 percent two or more races and 2 percent other.

“Although our sample is disproportionately Latino/a, results can be–and in subsequent pages are–weighted to permit valid presentation of citywide results,” the survey says.

Thirty-six percent of the respondents were between the ages of 18 and 34. Two cohorts, ages 35-49 and age 50 and older, each represented a 29-percent share of respondents.

OSI-Baltimore is holding three forums in conjunction with the survey. The first, for mayoral candidates, is Feb. 5 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and will be moderated by WYPR’s Tom Hall, the Baltimore Beat’s Lisa Snowden-McCray.

City Council President candidates will participate on March 18, also at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Khalilah Harris, of the Center for American Progress, will join Hall and Snowden-McCray in Moderating.

Mayoral candidates will take the stage again on April 16 at an event co-sponsored by the Stoop Storytelling series. That will be held at the War Memorial.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...